Nikki Haley trounced her three opponents in South Carolina's nasty Republican gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, after batting down adultery allegations late in the campaign. Haley beat her nearest rival, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, by a 2-to-1 margin, but fell one percentage point shy of the 50 percent she needed to avoid a June 22 run-off. Haley, a Tea Party favorite, told cheering supporters that the sex charges — by GOP operatives who claimed they've had affairs with the married candidate — were cooked up by the good ol' boy network to keep her from upsetting the status quo. Could the accusations still derail her campaign, or are they actually helping her win the protest vote? (Watch an ABC interview with Haley talking about her win)
The adultery charges backfired: Polling reveals that the majority of South Carolinians think the cheating charges are lies, says Ed Kilgore in FiveThirtyEight. It didn't help Haley's opponents when the attacks turned from sex to ethnicity, with a state senator (and supporter of her erstwhile rival Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer) referring to Haley as a "raghead." (Haley is a second-generation Indian America and a convert to evangelical Christianity.) The dirty politics backfired: Her opponents sank and Haley's poll numbers soared.
"The somewhat Super Tuesday: Previews of the California, Iowa, and South Carolina primaries and the Arkansas Senate runoff"
Haley's not out of the woods yet: Many of Barrett's Republican colleagues are urging him to bow out of the run-off, says Michael Roston in True/Slant, but he says he plans to use the next two weeks to catch up with Haley. It sounds like Barrett is betting that "the scandal Haley has faced" will "escalate and drag her down," with one of her accusers finally providing evidence that will make "a liar of her."
"Gresham Barrett hoping for more Nikki Haley scandal?"
The old order is finished: The first round proved voters reject "the old way of doing things," says Erick Erickson in RedState. The run-off is the good ol' boys' last stand — "a TARP voting establishmentarian versus the outsider accountant they threw everything at." Once Haley crushes Barrett, South Carolina Republicans who have turned their backs on true, small-government conservatism will be finished.
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